Even the most experienced of drivers is likely to be shaken up if they experience a car crash. Regardless of whether an accident occurs at high or low speeds, the forces present in a collision can cause serious bodily harm, lasting mental anguish, and considerable property damage. The Entrekin Law Firm observes that car accidents can result in life-changing wounds such as brain or spinal injuries, among other long-term medical complications.
Given that the risks of suffering an injury of some severity are high in a motor vehicle collision, it’s entirely understandable that a crash victim’s focus is on the health and wellbeing of themselves and any passengers in their car. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the cost of treating injuries sustained in a car accident can be enormous. According to a recent study by PeopleKeep®, the average cost of a single overnight hospital stay in the United States for a person with insurance is $11,700. The average nationwide cost of a leg or arm cast comes out to $863, the average cost of a wrist or arm fracture comes out to $21,427, and the average cost of back surgery equals a shocking $25,289.
Some insurance plans are undeniably better than others, but even an accident victim with excellent coverage may struggle to pay off the immediate costs of the medical treatments they need to get back to their everyday life. This doesn’t even account for the types of long-term care that may be required, from physical therapy to trauma counseling. In such a case, recovering damages from the party responsible for one’s injury can be incredibly important. In today’s article, we discuss how liability is determined in a multi-car collision in the state of Arizona.
What are No-Fault & At-Fault Insurance States?
Most U.S. states use one of two legal methods to determine whether accident victims have the right to sue for damages following a crash: the no-fault and at-fault models.
In a no-fault state, accident victims do not have the right to sue for minor injuries following a crash. If you are fortunate enough to escape a pileup with non-life-threatening wounds or no injuries at all, your insurance company is responsible for compensating you for damages incurred. Every driver in the crash is compensated by their insurance company for minor injuries, without regard to who was responsible for causing the collision. If a victim suffers serious wounds or incurs immense financial damages, they may be granted the right to file a car accident lawsuit in their state.
Most U.S. states operate using an at-fault system for car accidents. In an at-fault state, insurance companies must pay for damages sustained according to the percentage of responsibility each driver bears for the collision. Arizona uses an at-fault system to determine liability in a car accident case.
How is Compensation Determined When Multiple Vehicles Are Involved in a Crash?
The state of Arizona uses what is known as a “pure comparative negligence” system to determine compensation values in a car crash. All the drivers involved in a collision may seek compensation for the damages they suffer. Even if you’re found to be 99% responsible for the pileup, you can still file a claim. However, the value of your claim diminishes according to the percentage of responsibility you bear for the crash. In our example, if you are determined to have been 99% responsible for the multi-car collision, you will only be able to collect 1% of your awarded settlement amount.
How Fault is Calculated for a Multi-Car Accident
Determining the percentage of fault a driver bears for an accident is challenging enough when a crash involves only two vehicles. When there are three or more motor vehicles involved in a collision, it becomes even more difficult to determine who bears most of the responsibility for the situation.
Accident reconstruction is a crucial factor in determining what happened in the moments that led up to a pileup and which driver’s actions potentially caused the most damage. Reconstruction experts compile all the evidence available to determine the likely events that resulted in the collision. They may examine the vehicles and evidence left at the scene, such as tire marks and vehicle debris. Accident reconstruction experts will also gather eyewitness and police reports, take note of weather conditions present during the crash, and analyze vehicle damage.
Although it is difficult to state with complete certainty what precise events led to the crash, they will be able to determine what most likely occurred in the moments before, during, and after impact. Some additional factors that may influence whether any one driver bears more or less responsibility for the accident include:
- Whether any of the drivers were speeding at the time of the collision
- Whether any of the drivers were distracted or not paying attention to the road at the time of the accident
- If any traffic safety violations, such as tailgating or erratic lane changes, played a factor in the crash
- If there was proper signage on the road indicating that drivers should reduce speed or prepare to stop
- Whether there were weather or unsafe road conditions that necessitated increased caution or abrupt evasive maneuvers
What to Do After a Crash
If you or a loved one are involved in a car crash, it’s important to stay as calm as possible. The following steps may help you protect yourself and avoid further risk following the initial crash.
- Check yourself and your passengers for injuries.
- Get yourself and your vehicle (if moveable) to a safe location, away from traffic.
- Call 911 – even if there are no injuries, an incident report may help your legal case.
- Wait for help at a safe location, where you are not at risk of being struck by passing cars.
- Exchange information with the other drivers involved in the crash.
- Document the accident by taking pictures of the scene, asking for the name(s) of the responding officer(s), taking down witness statements and contact information, and obtaining a copy of the incident report.
- Whether a crash results in serious injuries or none at all, speak to a local car accident attorney familiar with your state’s laws and regulations.